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What New Grads Should Look for in the Job Search

“Find a real job,” they said. “It will be easy,” they said.

Coming out of college and into the “real world,” where you have to find a “real job” in public relations can be intimidating. What if you can’t find a job right away? What if you accept a position and hate it? The “what-ifs” can make you crazy, so let’s take a minute to consider the facts.

Fact #1: If you’re good, there are jobs out there for you. PR agencies are hiring. NST is hiring.

Fact #2: While important, getting your first “real” job doesn’t define your career. If you find it’s not right for you, you move on and learn from the experience.

So, worries aside, what is the best approach for tracking down and landing the right PR job for you?

Commit to the Job Search

When looking for a job, it can feel safe to take the first offer you get, but it’s important for new grads to commit to the job search to find a company and a role that is truly the best fit for them.

When we’re scrolling for job openings, things like a 401(k), health insurance, vision and dental are the first benefits listed, but we should be asking ourselves, “what else is important?” and, “what are my personal priorities?” Let the answers to these questions drive your search and inform the questions you ask in the interview process.

Culture and Community

The office culture and community can be one of the least valued, but most important aspects of finding the right job fit. Take a minute to explore this aspect of a company before you accept a position.

Check out their website, seek out their mission statement, values and “about us” section. Does the language they use resonate with you? Do the images they use and the way they describe the company make you feel excited about working with them? What about their social media pages? What does the company’s social presence tell you about its team members, it’s overall role in its community, and its place in the market?

Leverage LinkedIn to connect with current and former company team members. You’re a new grad and that’s the perfect excuse to use LinkedIn to ask for insights. Most employees are willing to share a couple thoughts on their company’s culture if you make it easy for them. Start with a short introduction letting them know you’re interviewing and wanted to hear their insider opinion. Then pose a couple brief questions to allow them to share their thoughts. If you’re not sure what to ask, start with these simple questions:

  • If you had to describe your company culture in 3 words, what would they be?
  • What is the biggest “pro” of the company culture? What is the biggest “con?”
  • Would you recommend a job at your company to a good friend? Why or why not?

Let Your Values Lead the Way

Knowing the kind of environment where you thrive can help you and your employer when it comes to long term satisfaction and success. There are many factors that contribute to a company’s culture that you should consider when setting your priorities for the perfect fit. At the top of that list are the company’s values.

What does your ideal workplace value?

  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Stability
  • Autonomy
  • Teamwork
  • Work-life balance
  • Flexible hours
  • Personal development
  • Mentorship
  • Recognition
  • Diversity
  • Growth opportunities
  • Community engagement
  • Focus
  • Fun
  • Access to leadership
  • Competitive salary
  • Rewarding hard work

Think these things through as they relate to your work environment, where you’ll spend five days and 40+ hours every week. Make a list of your top five factors. These are your “must haves” for your ideal work environment – the deal breakers. No matter what, don’t compromise on these as you go through your job search. Next, prioritize the rest of the list in order of importance to you. When you’re stuck choosing between multiple roles, revisit this list and use it to honestly assess how one job might be a better fit over another, considering your values.

Dig into values during the interview process as well. For example, if collaboration and teamwork are top values for you, don’t be afraid to ask your potential employers how they foster relationships between employees in and out of the office.

Looking for workplaces that offer relationship building opportunities like team building activities, annual retreats, happy hours and professional development seminars can give new grads a chance to expand connections in the industry and learn from experienced practitioners across the company. At NST, we jump at these opportunities and learn from one another with professional development meetings once a month where we focus on a variety of topics from current industry trends to personal growth. Meeting once a month isn’t enough for any team, and especially not the explorers at NST, so we also host weekly virtual happy hours where we incorporate team building games to connect with one another in new and engaging ways as we continue to work from home during the pandemic.

Extra Perks to Seal the Deal

While we expect our jobs to provide a health care package and some vacation time, many firms are now offering new employment incentives to show how they do things differently. When you’re interviewing, explore if your new opportunity offers fun perks like dogs in the office, summer hours allowing employees to start the weekend early, or even hybrid options allowing employees to work from home more often. More than just the perk itself, consider what these kinds of offerings say about the company and its commitment to its employees.

Finding your first job after graduation may sound daunting, but by committing yourself to the job search, considering the role of culture and community, and letting your values lead the way in your final decision process, you will find the right fit.

It may not be easy, but it will certainly be rewarding. Good luck job seekers!

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